Background: Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a neurotropic flavivirus that causes Japanese encephalitis (JE), which leads to high fatality rates in human. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is a key factor that mediates immunopathology in the central nervous system (CNS) during JE. Etanercept is a safe anti-TNF-α drug that has been commonly used in the treatment of various human autoimmune diseases.
Methods: The effect of etanercept on JE was investigated with a JEV-infected mouse model. Four groups of mice were assigned to receive injections of phosphate-buffered saline, etanercept, JEV, or JEV plus etanercept. Inflammatory responses in mouse brains and mortality of mice were evaluated within 23 days post infection.
Results: The in vitro assay with mouse neuron/glia cultures showed that etanercept treatment reduced the inflammatory response induced by JEV infection. In vivo experiments further demonstrated that administration of etanercept protected mice from JEV-induced lethality. Neuronal damage, glial activation, and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines were found to be markedly decreased in JEV-infected mice that received etanercept treatment. Additionally, etanercept treatment restored the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and reduced viral load in mouse brains.
Conclusions: Etanercept effectively reduces the inflammation and provides protection against acute encephalitis in a JEV-infected mouse model.
Keywords: Japanese encephalitis virus; TNF-α; etanercept; inflammation; viral encephalitis.
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